Volunteering for the environment

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

by Hanneke du Preez

Scientists estimate that we have ±20 years left to turn things around in terms of climate change.


At some point, there must have been a desire in each of us to help in some way. As students, it can be difficult to find ways to do this. This is a list of volunteering opportunities that will contribute to the betterment of the environment, and they can be found in various parts of the country. These are good ways to spend one’s time during school vacation.

South Africa has many non-profit organisations doing amazing work for environment. Here is a list of 5 organisations where you can get involved.

1. Shamwari Conservation Experience

Where: 1h 30min from Port Elizabeth Minimum duration: 2 weeks

Accommodation & meals provided: yes

The Shamwari Conservation Experience aims to replenish the wildlife that once roamed the area. It takes participants behind the scenes and exposes them to the daily tasks involved in conserving wild life and their environment. Activities include working with the Born Free Foundation Charity who works at ensuring that all wild animals – whether or not they are in captivity – are treated with compassion. Volunteers also assist in the Animal Rehabilitation Centre with preparing animals for their release them back into the wild. The experience also includes community projects and assisting in research projects where there will be sleep-outs on the Big Five reserve and anti-poaching patrols.

2. Food & Trees for Africa

Where: Around Gauteng Minimum duration: 1 day

Accommodation & meals provided: no

Food & Trees for Africa is a non-profit organization that focuses on food security, the well-being of the environment and sustainability. Food & Trees for Africa promotes sustainable economic development as well as skill building in agriculture and climate change. This social and environmental enterprise uses their volunteers’ skills strategically so you can expect anything from publicity management to labor such as packing seeds.


Where: Port Elizabeth & Cape Town Minimum duration: 1 month

Accommodation & meals provided: no

SANCCOB is the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. SANCCOB is desperate for volunteers all year round to rescue and rehabilitate sea birds. They also rear abandoned African penguins from eggs for release back into the wild. They are actively fighting the decline in sea birds by not only rescuing and rehabilitating them, but also by educating the community about their research and their cause.

Volunteers at SANCCOB can expect to do tasks such as assisting with sea bird rehabilitation, cleaning of enclosures and feeding of the sea birds. There may be some administrative work in the office to be done as well.

A few of the kinds of birds found at SANCCOB. Photo sourced.

4. Nature’s Valley Trust

Where: Nature’s Valley (Garden Route) Minimum duration: 2 weeks Accommodation & meals provided: yes

The Nature’s Valley Trust is a community initiative whose objective is to maintain a pristine environment in and around the Nature’s Valley coast line. They take volunteers all year round to participate in their conservation and research projects. Volunteers can choose between two areas to participate in: Conservation Education and Research Ecology. Those who choose to engage in Conservation Education facilitate outdoor classrooms, support during events and community projects. Volunteers who prefer to partake in the Research Ecology work alongside biologists and are exposed to the research projects being conducted in this area. All volunteers are required to have an interest in nature and making an impact – big or small.

5. Panthera Africa

Where: Near Stanford Minimum duration: 1 week

Accommodation & meals provided: yes

Panthera Africa is a sanctuary for big cats. They advocate for ethical treatment of big cats living in captivity. Volunteers will be integrated into the routines of caring for these big cats. This includes preparing food, cleaning enclosures, partaking in awareness projects and assisting in the over-all effective running of the initiative. (Note: when visiting the website, the homepage is accompanied by a lion’s roar, so be careful where you do it)

These locations encourage volunteers to come and educate themselves and save the environment while having a good time. Involving yourself will be mutually beneficial for both the volunteers and the environment.

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